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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Kiev in Chaos - Putin's Three Front War

While President Putin entertains Olympic guests in Sochi and watches hockey games, his leadership is challenged on three fronts. First, domestic terrorists are still lurking on the borders of Sochi in Volgograd. Then, there's the humanitarian crises in Syria with President Assad as a despot, while Russia props up his genocidal regime. Now there's Kiev burning in the Ukraine.

First, Volgograd:  On December 30, 2013, at least 14 people were killed in a suicide bombing on a trolleybus in the Russian city of Volgograd. The blast came a day after 17 people died in another suicide attack at the central station in the city. As a result, security was tightened at railway stations and airports across Russia.

Moscow is concerned that anti Putin militants are plotting violence to attract attention during the February 2014 winter Olympic Games in Sochi. (I'm pretty sure Putin has taken care of this problem in the short term, but the dissidents won't disappear.)

Police are storming the main protest camp in Ukraine's capital, Kiev, which has been occupied since November.

Explosions are taking place, fireworks are being thrown and large fires have broken out in Independence Square, known locally as the Maidan.

On Tuesday at least 18 people were killed, including seven policemen, in the worst violence seen in weeks.

BBCNews reports that opposition leaders later met President Viktor Yanukovych but failed to find a solution to the crisis, reports say.

Vitaly Klitschko, the leader of the opposition Udar (Punch) party, said the president only called for protesters to leave the Maidan, according to Ukraine's Hromadske TV.

Meanwhile, Mr Yanukovych's aide said the president was preparing to address the nation, without providing further details.'Island of freedom'

Security forces had given protesters a deadline of 18:00 local time (16:00 GMT) to leave Independence Square, the scene of a mostly peaceful protest camp since November.

The city's metro service was completely shut down, and there were reports that cars were being prevented from coming in to the capital.

Then shortly before 18:00 GMT, police announced over loudspeakers that they were about to begin "an anti-terror operation". (To me, this announcement sounds like an imminent massacre, while Putin is engaged in his Olympics Loves Russia campaign).

While Kiev burns and a street massacre is threatened, Putin is still under threat of domestic terrorism from the militants in Volgograd. 

Compounding the above is the humanitarian disaster in Syria, where millions of people are suffering and dying in refugee camps while their families are living under threat of massacres, all on Putin's watch. Assad is Putin's puppet. Together, they are the "ying" and "yang" of totalitarian despots, putting millions of people in harms way with their oppressive rule.

No single despot can sustain a three front war. Hitler tried and failed in Europe, Russia and Africa.  All three failed.

Putin can't suppress every dissident group. My suspicion is that Putin has put many people in prison and murdered unknown numbers to protect the success of the Sochi Olympics. Nevertheless, like a blocked water hose, Putin put pressure on Volgograd to keep Sochi safe, just see Kiev burst the pressure.

Sooner or later, the humanitarian crises in Syria will drown the Assad regime, regardless of who wins the brutal civil war. Assad's days are numbered, because it's not possible for him to lead a nation where millions of his nation's Syrians are living in exile.

More tragic than Kiev in chaos and Putin's three front war are the vast numbers of people who are suffering in the violence.

I don't understand how Putin and Assad can continue to lead their nations unless they annihilate their opposition. Although Assad is toast when Putin is fed up with him, it's possible for the Russian leader to murder all his adversaries and thereby remain in power for a very long time.  

Yet, Kiev in chaos could conceivably be the match to start a Russian conflagration. There's no way to keep Volgograd's domestic terrorists quiet forever. Moreover, Syria's Assad can't survive the humanitarian disaster he's created. Surely, Putin can't be feeling secure in his position as Russia's president.

Therein is the worst problem of all. An insecure leader can be dangerously erratic. Putins' three front war could derail the vision of a modern Russia. Rather, leadership insecurity could lead the world back into the climate of cold war politics with a Russian despot in charge.  Kiev in chaos could infect Russia and put Putin in the position of being a caged animal.  

Enjoying the Sochi Olympics could be Putin looking like a wolf in sheep's clothing. In the future, Putin's three front war will expose him as a leader who believes Russia never lost the cold war.

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